Designing quality change

Return to News
  • Brian Fountaine
    Brian Fountaine
  • Dearborn, Mich. — Patriot’s Day three years ago, the international flag-lined finish line of the Boston Marathon changed from cheers for the runners to screams from runners, their family members and friends after two ground-shaking explosions occurred less than a block apart.

    Among yellow vested first responders on that clear day suddenly filled with smoke, were camo-clad national guardsmen and Emergency Medical Technicians triaged the 150 injured, among who had lost or injured legs, ankles and feet.

    Northeastern University design student Brian Fountaine knew he not only had educational know-how to create aides for some of these people, but his first-hand knowledge would shorten research and development time. Nine years before, while serving in a second tour in Iraq both Fountaine’s legs were taken in a bomb blast.

    Now, after marshaling his social media connections, the former tank commander, who didn’t plan to attend college, has an additional $10,000 to go with the $25,000 from the original 2015 Ford College Community Challenge grant from Ford Motor Company Fund.

    The bonus grant will allow for purchase of a solid block of metal for limb creation, travel to conferences to collaborate with other prosthetic limb designers toward lessening the cost of limbs. After all, a prosthetic leg costs $5,000 to $50,000 but wear and tear require replacement in three to five years. Of course a growing child requires sooner replacement; and each limb requires custom fitting.

    Fountaine doesn’t only design legs and he’s not working alone. Ben Caras is the project faculty advisor and Brenna Sorkin is the CAD/3-D printing expert. Together they may also restore some music to the world.

    “My friend, Maureen was born without her left hand, but she played violin with a clamp holding the bow. It was lost in a house fire. It cost about $750,” said Fountaine. As with many prosthetics, they are not always covered by insurance, but this innovator said “I told her, I can make it for about $50. We’re working on it. There will be tests, but this will open a big world for amputees.”

  • Brian Fountaine, Brenna Sorkin, CAD/3D printing expert; Professor Ben Caras